United Kingdom | 19 August 2009
With gorgeous summer weather and an unbeatably sedate atmosphere, Summer Sundae Weekender 2009 proved to be a really wonderful festival, writes Tom Goodwyn.
Overall - 7/10
Summer Sundae’s brush with the swine flu pandemic was rather more tangible than a few stricken festival-goers, with Friday’s headliners The Streets being forced to pull out due to the illness. Happily, Idlewild stepped in extremely easily in their place. Aside from this and the outstanding Bon Iver, the choice of headliners and main acts left a good deal to be desired.
Steady picks - The Zutons, The Charlatans and in theory, The Streets - are well-travelled festival bands but they created no sense of occasion. Their sets were cursory at best and the money spent on them, left the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club, The Joy Formidable and even the Mystery Jets carrying slots that were far too big for them.
Having said that, there were outstanding sets from Frank Turner, Wild Beasts and Chairlift, gorgeous summer weather and an unbeatably sedate atmosphere. Summer Sundae is, but a few budgetary shifts, a really wonderful festival.
Atmosphere – 10/10
Just delightful. Summer Sundae has the calming glow of a really lovely picnic. Families mingle with beered up revellers in a way you’d not think was possible. Police walk around with beaming smiles, queues are a rarity and the capacity is small enough that you’re never left outside a tent for a must see act. Top whack.
Getting There and Back – 9/10
Couldn’t be easier. Situated in Victoria Park, right in the heart of Leicester, Summer Sundae is under a ten minute walk from the train station, which runs direct trains to London, Birmingham and a myriad of other major cities. There’s also ample official car parking and unofficial free parking less than five minutes away.
The Site – 8/10
Despite the fact that you’re maybe 500 metres from the main road at any given, Summer Sundae still manages to create an idyllic feel. Having rapidly expanded in its nine years, the site still maintains the feel of a slightly warped village fete. There’s the standard festival fare on offer in terms of food, booze and silly hats, with a good portion of the site given over to charities. For the Sundae virgin though, it takes a while to get used to the fact that the second stage is indoors, but when space is limited, what can you do.
Bon Iver – 9/10
It’s been amazing to watch Justin Vernon and his travelling players go from lower slots on the small stages to becoming the must see acts of the summer. With the sun going down on Sunday night, this slot is just made for them. ‘Skinny Love’, ‘Wolves’ and ‘Flume’ all attract feverish mass sing–a-longs, with spine tingling consequences. In a year of safe bets, the chance Summer Sundae took by booking the then little known acoustic maestro paid off and then some. Utterly wonderful.
Wild Beasts – 8/10
Buried deep within Friday afternoon’s bill, Yorkshire’s Wild Beasts truly live up to their name. Raucous and full of energy, they deliver the likes of ‘Hooting And Howling’ and ‘All The King’s Men’ with a real earnestness. They’ve spent the last three years being touted as the next big thing, on this evidence they could certainly realise that potential soon.
Chairlift – 8/10
Brooklyn threesome Chairlift are one of the few bands to benefit from the gloomy backdrop of the indoor stage. Layering De Montfort Hall’s rafters with their cavernous chords and ethereal harmonies. ‘Bruises’ in particular is truly spellbinding.
Frank Turner – 9/10
It’s been a weird journey for Winchester punk Frank Turner. But now, the former hardcore frontman seems strangely at home at Summer Sundae. Currently sculpting his third album, Turner seems to have settled into the role of travelling troubadour, with his new songs gaining a windswept, campfire-esque quality. Playing to a packed tent, his set has a pleasant intimacy and shows a man really coming into his own.
Future Of The Left – 8/10
These Welsh noise terrorists stick out like a swollen pinkie on the wholly twee Summer Sundae bill, but still draw a great crowd late on Friday night. Raw, incisive and full of energy, the trio pack a mighty punch. ‘Throwing Bricks At Trains’, ‘You Need Satan More Than He Needs You’ and ‘The House That Hope Built”’ are all fired at explosive velocity, taking every punter with them. On this tweeist of weekends, F.O.T.L are a welcome anomaly.
Emmy The Great – 5/10
Emma Lee Moss’s sunny ditties should be perfect for Summer Sundae, but fall oddly short. Partly that’s because she’s forced to play indoors, partly because the turnout isn’t anything near what her outstanding debut deserves and mostly, because seemingly, she can’t really be bothered. “I feel a bit like I’m in assembly,” says Emmy, before firing off without pause for breath ‘First Love’, ‘Dylan’ and ‘We Almost Had A Baby’. By the end of her set, it feels a bit like assembly too, rather tetchy and uncomfortable.
Charlatans – 3/10
Quite whose idea it was to book The Charlatans is unknown, but the indie godfathers look and sound incredibly tired. Banging out the hits early, their career spanning set falls quietly on a barely interested crowd.
Michachu and the Shapes – 6/10
Rising star Michachu and her Shapes are hamstrung again by the bizarre surroundings of the indoor stage. Under attended and seemingly lost on those who do attend, Michachu’s brazen beats and staccato melodies deserve a more welcoming audience.
In the random stakes, most of the highlights are in the garden, which, despite being alcohol free, sees nearly all of weekend’s high jinks. There’s the Mad Hatter’s tea party and some really rather bizarre cabaret.
Elsewhere, there’s the festival’s unofficial police force who seem to take their stop and search policy far too seriously. Watch out if you’re heading their way in 2010.
By Tom Goodwyn.
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